• Class: 5th-year senior (Eligibility: 1)
• On The Depth Chart: Second-team left guard/left tackle
• Post-Spring Status: Unchanged
Bivin At His Best
It’s hard to pick out a moment because Bivin struggled in limited work last season. He played in all 12 games but made just one start, getting the call over an injured Colin McGovern against Stanford. That was the game when Solomon Thomas almost single-handedly ripped apart the Irish offense, targeting the offensive line’s interior. And it’s not like Quenton Nelson was the player getting beat. A week later McGovern was back in the starting lineup. And when McGovern struggled in November, he was replaced by Mark Harrell instead. Considering he was a former four-star recruit, Bivin has struggled to get traction within the offensive line rotation.
“Hunter Bivin would be the first guy. Then we’d have to see how serious it was if we were to flip sides with those other guys. (Bivin is) probably at left tackle and left guard and Trevor (Ruhland) would probably be in there at right guard the way he is progressing.” – Harry Hiestand on Notre Dame’s top two true backup offensive linemen
Notre Dame’s offensive line stays healthy and Bivin offers the Irish a reliable sixth man who remains in the background. There’s major value in a fifth-year lineman who knows four positions, and Brian Kelly gets that. It was one of the reasons why he was upset when Matt Hegarty departed for Oregon as a graduate transfer and why he celebrated Mark Harrell last year. With Colin McGovern and John Montelus going the graduate transfer route (both at Virginia), it’s up to Bivin to be Mr. Next Man In on the offensive line. Put it another way: Hunter Bivin is a great fire extinguisher and Notre Dame would be best off if it doesn’t have to break that glass.
This is a reach but hear us out. Bivin is from Owensboro, Ky., which is about an hour north of Bowling Green. That’s the home of Western Kentucky and its first-year head coach Mike Sanford. And Bivin’s older brother Harris is a graduate assistant there. Obviously, Bivin would be a major upgrade for the Hilltoppers along the offensive line. Of course, Brian Kelly has said Bivin will be back next season. But assuming Bivin graduates as scheduled this month he’d be free to make this move, walk into a starting job and play under his brother. Again, this would be a worst-case scenario beyond the usual. But it’s worth remembering.
What Notre Dame wants is for Bivin to be the next Mark Harrell, a fifth-year offensive lineman content to work in the background and be ready if an injury hits the position. That’s the role Harrell played last season, ultimately starting the final two games of his career. Those were also Harrell’s only two starts of his career. It was a compliment to Harrell’s extreme patience considering he didn’t play his freshman or sophomore seasons and only got in during blowouts of Rice and Michigan as a junior. Instead of bolting for a fifth-year elsewhere, he stuck around. Notre Dame benefited, even during a disastrous season.
What The Future Holds
It’s difficult to know considering Bivin’s up-and-down spring practice. He often worked with the third team, giving Aaron Banks a look with the twos. But Bivin could still help the Irish at guard and tackle in an emergency. He’d also spare the staff from having to play a true freshman if there’s an injury.